TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A Topeka attorney will not be able to represent two men charged in the same assault case.
Judge Mark Braun ruled Wednesday that having Billy Rork represent Monroe Lockhart and Anthony Talbert creates a conflict of interest under the 6th amendment.
Braun says the State will appoint both men with new counsel or they can hire their own.
Lockhart and Talbert are charged with a November home invasion where a woman was beaten then burned with a knife. During a hearing on the motion to disqualify Rork, a Douglas County detective testified that a third man involved in the case, Jacob Barnett, told authorities he had information about the case after his arrest on unrelated charges. The detective says Barnett placed Lockhart and Talbert at the scene, and recounted that Talbert served primarily as a lookout while Lockhart "called the shots" during the assault.
Prosecutors have said they may call Talbert to testify against Lockhart in the case.
Braun heard the detective's testimony and arguments from both attorneys and also questioned both defendants in closed court in arriving at his decision.
"Despite defense counsel's position, the Court finds a serious potential for conflict in this case," Braun wrote in his decision. "If Mr. Rork continues as defense counsel, then during the course of this representation, he may face a division of loyalty between Mr. Talbert and Mr. Lockhart. Further, if such a division arose, Mr. Rork would be faced with an actual conflict of interest."
A docket hearing is set for March 15.